Did You Say Love?

Local Arts Reviews

Exhibitionism

Did You Say Love?

Ventana Del Sol, through April 10

Running time: 1 hr, 30 min

Love is ... how does one complete the definition? With clichés, I suppose, or masterful poetry. Because love may be, paradoxically, the most simple and the most complicated human emotion, too vast to condense into a dictionary. A chick and a dude productions does not attempt to explain love (thank goodness) but instead exemplifies it through snippets of individual stories. Their original production Did You Say Love?, written by Melissa Livingston and directed by Shanon Weaver, is a simple, monologue-heavy show with actors individually taking the black-box stage and delivering text. They wear jeans with white shirts to connect the ensemble pieces. When they join together, they pose in tableaux, offering diverse quips about their particular love lessons.

Admittedly, I can identify with the stories. They cater to a certain suburban generation for whom the mention of a 1991 Guns N' Roses song might bring up memories of high school. (How I wish to forget that.) Or the type of John Hughes-Sixteen Candles humiliation that is easy to mimic, as in the freshman-smitten-with-upperclass-girl story, "The Homecoming." In "Another Monday Night," David Bowers offers guttural and groaning responses to the pleasures of football and, more explicitly, hot wings. Doug Barry's charisma as a man who loves all women because he can't choose one is cute, but then it makes sense to have a sexy actor seduce the audience, as here or during Liz Fisher's libidinous confessions in "All She Wants." "What's wrong with women wanting sex as much as men?" she poses after reading a Cosmopolitan advice column. Don't be fooled by all this sputtering of hot stuff: The end of the first act leaves a very bitter taste with Livingston's "He Loves Me" – a teary-eyed unfolding of father-daughter incest.

Smacking of fairy tale couplings that seem, and are, improbable, Tyrell Woolbert describes the woes of throwing away a sweet man because he is dull, even though he gives his loved one flowers, takes her on horse-drawn carriage rides, and buys her dinner. She says no to his marriage proposal because he's not exciting. "Letting Go" is an anecdote about giving up love because "he does not know who he is." Finally, "Jack" is about a high school friend who died and is always watching from the ether.

With its many contrasts of dark and light, love can generate vulnerability and confusion. Theatre can create a similar effect. There is an exchange happening between the spectator and the actor. The spectator wants to understand the story, the message, or be so engulfed in the time spent listening to tall tales. It is not always clear where a show will take a viewer, emotionally or intellectually, but performances that stain the memory are often wrought with sincerity and clear intention. In Did You Say Love?, the titular question mark is pertinent: What is this all about? The amibguity in text and style is troublesome. This production has the potential to challenge or transform our perceptions of love or connect us to the universal human experience if it can move beyond angst.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Did You Say Love?, Melissa Livingston, Shanon Weaver, a chick and a dude productions, Tyrell Woolbert, David Bowers, Doug Barry, Liz Fisher

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